The agony and the ecstasy: How I discovered I was a full-on fanatic

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I sat in the corner of the living room on Sunday and closed my eyes. I was having trouble breathing. My chest hurt. My hands and face were numb. I stared at the ground between my knees. Relax, man. Relax.

For the first time, right there on the grimy floor of my fraternity's living room, I experienced the full extent of my devotion to the Green Bay Packers, and it came in the form of a full-on anxiety attack. I had to support myself against a wall, and my brothers were bringing me water. If fan is indeed short for fanatic, then consider me one of the more literal examples.

The score at that point was 19-7 in our favor, and yeah, I know how it all ended. Most of my thoughts that night flew to woulda-coulda-shoulda replays of Brandon Bostick grasping lamely at the onside kick, Russell Wilson's two-point conversion hanging in the air for an eternity, and that stomach-twisting tease of an overtime. It was tormenting. Torturous.

As I lay there, tossing and turning, I asked myself if being a fan was worth it.

I had tried eating after the game, but I was only two pancakes in (yeah -- pancakes) when I felt like I was going to puke. I tried to sleep, but it was only after two hours of restless flashbacks that I could escape into unconsciousness. My fandom last Sunday took a physical toll on my body, and in retrospect, it doesn't feel like something to be proud of. It felt obsessive and excessive, and despite the surreal nature of the loss, it was some of the coldest reality I've had in recent memory.

Many analysts have cited this year's NFC Championship as "the reason we watch football," and I must agree. Truly, this is what sports are all about: the agony and the ecstasy -- but is the latter worth the former?

A common line I heard over the past several days was, "Hey, you had your championship a few years ago, and plus, there's always next year." My mom said this a lot when I called her up. I wanted to tell her it was more complicated than that.

Winning a title is impossible to describe -- the triumph you feel, the community you share, the unparalleled ecstasy -- it is the pinnacle of fandom. The lifted weight from your shoulders is really tangible, and once you're back to non-champ status, the weight begins to grow again. You aren't conditioned for it after a year off -- it feels heavier. As seasons go by, it becomes harder to carry. It digs at you. In my case, it kept me awake and made me numb. I remember watching the Packers' collapse and just wishing it could all be over. Let the game end so, win or lose, I can just be at peace. I can go upstairs and write again or do homework or sleep -- something where I'm not thinking about football all the time or worrying about the next game or agonizing over statistics. Just give me relief.

When I think back on it now, the Packers losing might have been the best thing for me, health-wise. I lost feeling in my extremities after just an hour. Two whole weeks leading up to the Super Bowl? I might have really done some damage to myself. It's weird to write this, but perhaps it was for the best. I don't know.

During that same conversation with my mom, she stressed for me to remember that it was just a game. I've always felt that was unfair to say about sports -- lives are changed every day out on that field, for better or for worse -- but I do think it was important for me to hear. I almost passed out because of a game? It sounds silly. Maybe I inflated things. Maybe I made it more than a game. Maybe I put too much stake on it and overanalyzed the situation -- created a delusion of some greater meaning. Maybe my body was just reacting to my subconscious saying that if the Packers blew it, things would never be the same. Hard to believe that at kickoff of the very same contest, I had flopped down on the couch in my Aaron Rodgers jersey with the announcement that, hey, I hope we at least can compete today. It's hard for me to picture myself like that. Hard to remember.

I'm not sure where to go from here. I'm a fanatical supporter of the Green Bay Packers. I grew up with that team, I celebrated with that team and I certainly failed with them too. This doesn't mean the end of my fandom, but it does mean that I have to do some self-rehabilitating. I have to learn how to be alright with a loss. I have to put it in perspective. I'm still here. I'm still doing what I love. I'm still waking up to another day of Packer history every morning, and whether that brings highs or lows, I have to acknowledge that it's all part of the greater narrative that is the wide, wide world of sports. That's why we keep showing up, after all. There's always another page in the book.

Eight months from now, you'll probably catch me watching Week 1 of NFL Sunday. I'll be wearing that Aaron Rodgers jersey, with a t-shirt on underneath that says "Jesus loves the Packers." My breathing will be normal. My heart, hopeful. My hands, steady. It will be for the simple love of the game. That's all it has to be.

Tyler Daswick is a junior at Northwestern University. He is a huge fan of the Green Bay Packers, Indiana Jones, and writing stories about cowboys and banditos. Follow him on Twitter: @AccordingtoDazz
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